The new Starbucks app that will allow customers to tip digitally from Mar. 19, 2014, has failed to excite the end receivers- the baristas, with one Starbucks employee going as far as to term the app a “dumb idea.” For some, it is a loss as the cash, which was a sure thing, they used to get in their hands may now get lost or mismanaged in some digital space. At present, all tipping at Starbucks is done in cash.
A barista at the Starbucks on Route 70, Lakewood Township, New Jersey, who preferred to remain anonymous for fear of losing her job, said she thought “it is a dumb idea.” She said that she was happy with the current form of tips distribution. “When people leave us tips in cash, it all gets pooled together and then distributed as is the norm in our store and it is an easy method too. However, I am not sure how this digital thing would work,” she said.
Speaking for a previous experience of working in a restaurant, she said: “Every time a customer tipped us on a [debit/credit] card, I do not really know where it went. This digital thing sounds familiar to the tipping system of a card. I am not too happy about it.”
Her co-worker, who was overhearing the conversation, agreed. “Yea, I do not get it either. I just hope I get my tips on time and the mobile app does not cause any delays in payment. I can tell you, I am concerned.”
When asked if they had been briefed about the app and how it would work, the girls shook their heads in unison to a “no”. An attempt to speak to the store manager about the lack of employees’ knowledge failed as the manager was “too busy.”
A few telephone calls to other nearby Starbucks stores resulted in two conclusions: One, many baristas are still unaware about the new app and two, several are concerned. One barista, who wanted to go just by the name Frank, even whispered over the phone that his store does not distribute cash tips fairly, so he was “least concerned” about tips gathered digitally “because it would never reach me anyway.”
However all is not bad news. Customers, for one, are excited about the digital app. “There have been so many times that I thought I had a couple of dollars when I did not and had to leave without giving any tip. It’s always made me feel bad. This is a great way to overcome the problem of not having any loose change,” Sally Adam said.
Faisal Haq also thinks it’s a great idea to pay with an app. “When you go to a proper restaurant, you can always leave a tip on a credit card but employees of QSRs (quick service restaurants) mostly rely on cash tips. And not everyone is willing to leave five dollar notes when they don’t have anything lesser so these employees would fall-out on them. This app is a great way to encourage better customer service and boost the morale of QSR employees,” he said.
According to a Starbucks announcement on Wednesday, an update in their iOS app will allow customers in the US, Canada and UK to tip baristas any amount ranging from 50 cents to $2 via a push notification option sent to their iPhones a few minutes after paying at the register. The customers will have a two-hour window to decide if they want to change the tip amount. The Starbucks app has been downloaded 10 million times already by customers, which accounts for about 11 percent or five million, of in-store purchases.
Tips are a touchy subject for Starbucks. In 2008, Starbucks was ordered to pay $86 million in tips (plus interest) to over 100,000 of its California baristas by a San Diego, California, judge. In separate cases in 2009 and 2013, the chain was once again involved in battle over tips with its shift managers and supervisors, which went in favor of Starbucks.
Keeping its history in mind, here is hoping that the new app is not really a “dumb idea” and would prove to be successful for the chain and the employees alike.
By Faryal Najeeb